Day one of the 2016 Hobie ®16 World Championship semi finals kicked off this morning in a solid, square breeze on the waters of Dapeng Bay in South Eastern China.
The field of 56 teams, were divided into 4 groups of 14 with 28 teams in each race. The 4 groups will shuffle over the three days of semi final racing, making up different combinations of 28 boats, a method designed to make the series equal for all competitors.
The 2007 Fiji world champion, Mick Butler from Australia, was the standout performer of the day with two convincing wins, placing him near the top of the leaderboard. Competitors who prefer strong winds are hanging out for a stiff breeze tomorrow, however, it must be said that Butler is a big wind sailor, Jervis Bay the venue for the 2014 worlds, being his home waters. So consistency across a variety of conditions is the key to success.
With only three races contested today there is not an even spread across the field, therefore, the 28 teams in race 4B which was postponed, will start off in the first race of the final day of the semis.
Competitors across the board are generally optimistic about their chances in making the finals with many surprised, yet proud that they have achieved the milestone of competing in a Hobie Open Semi Final, not an easy feat to achieve.
On the beach just prior to his second race of the day Mick Butler (AUS) said, “This is a world championships so the competition is tight, that’s the way it’s meant to be. We had a pretty good day yesterday with a 5 and a 7 finish. But we got a win this morning and that puts us back in the mix. We’ve got to go out there right now and get another top five placing to keep us in the Big Show.”
Cao Hui Bin (CHN) is the host country’s last remaining competitor. “We are very happy to be in the semi finals because coming into the event and at the beginning of racing, we were expecting nothing. We felt really privileged to be in the semi finals with the top Hobie 16 sailors and we definitely want to make it to the finals to compete against the best in the world”.
Rod Waterhouse from Australia goes into the final series in the lead, this time sailing with his daughter Bridget, after clocking up two series wins so far in this regatta, the Masters and the Grand Masters, with his wife Kerry as crew.
After the announcement that he was leading the field of international Hobie sailors Rod offered these comments.
“We’re really chuffed leading into the final series we’re not quite sure how we got there, we started a bit up and down. We had a 3 and a 2 to start with, which felt ok, and then we came down with a 20th which put us right back on our heels. That led to a lot of questioning last night.
So today we went out still reeling from yesterday’s 20th place and we got a 1 and a 2, which was absolutely brilliant. We had a little bit of luck in the first race when we got the second but the last race we felt we sailed brilliantly. With my daughter Bridget it was just a fabulous way to close out this semi final series.
Honestly, there are ten boats that are in contention and with the points to win this series. We’re only a third of the way through with up to 8 races to go. It’s going to take skill and luck, but we’re definitely in there, but it’s got to all go our way. We’re just happy to be leading at this point.
It’s a high level fleet and the wind is all over the place, the conditions are hard to read and basically there’s no predictability in it. Bridget and I have always wanted to do a major series and this is our chance. She’s a brilliant crew, she’s fast, she’s fun and she keeps me calm, which is great when you’ve got conditions like we’ve been having. So I’m really very, very fortunate having the opportunity to sail with her”.
The six foot, plus Dane Daniel Bjornholt and crew Josephine Frederiksen are sitting in a comfortable second place. Daniel shared some of his thoughts regarding the situation he now finds himself in.
“Coming into the series I was expecting to get into the finals and I knew that if we did we would do really well. I knew that if everything went right I’d be up there at the top because the speed is there and I’ve been making the right decisions.
Sure sometimes you have to be a little lucky and when others make a mistake it helps you to catch up. Here is Dapeng the others have made enough mistakes for me to catch up. It’s always about making less, mistakes than the others.
It seems like the top six are really close and the winner could be any one of those guys. It’s really about the weather and what happens on the day, it could be any of them.
The winds have been pretty light to medium and we really like strong winds, so I hope they pick up. I’ve beaten most of these guys in strong winds before and I think I can do it again”.
Story and photos from Hobie® Cat Media